- Fred Spriggs

A couple of my friends have asked me after all these years in retirement why I’ve started writing for the newspaper again.

It’s simple, I love my hometown and its newspaper.

The Webster County Citizen was there to publicize my meager athletic achievements during my youth. It even documented when I broke my collarbone.

For a decade and a half, I loved covering the news and especially writing my weekly column for the Citizen.

Talking with Dan, he told me that more than 50 community newspapers had gone out of business since the COVID-19 crisis struck our nation.

Did you know that Mansfield and Mountain Grove no longer have newspapers?

A few months ago, they were blended into one publication; a sign of the times, I suppose.

I also noticed during the start of this pandemic that ad revenue at the newspaper had really dropped off with so many small businesses, the ones who advertise in community newspapers, ordered closed by government officials.

Writing a column really started back up when I wrote a letter to the editor. Dan e-mailed me back that he wanted to turn it into a column, and from there, I started writing again.

It’s not as easy as it used to be — I’ve got a tremor in my right hand that causes it to wander around the keyboard, so forgive any typos you see.

At times my column will at entertain, at others inform and once in a while make readers think.

Because right now we need to do everything we can to help our hometown.

I hope my meager efforts will help my hometown get through this pandemic that seems like it will never end.

I’ve often heard my contemporaries, folks who grew up in Seymour in the 1950s and 1960s, say, “It was like growing up in Mayberry.” The Mayberry referred to is the fictional television home to “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968.

It was so popular you can still watch it today from 11 a.m. to noon on KY-3 each Monday through Friday or four hours daily on a satellite/cable channel.

Mayberry truly was the definition of “hometown.”

In fact, hometown was even the theme of two episodes of the show. One was titled “Stranger In Town,” when a fellow picks Mayberry as his hometown, takes the local paper and learns everything about everybody, then freaks everyone out when he shows up and knows so many personal details.

The other episode was even called “My Hometown” and featured a song performed by Keevy Hazelton that was written by Aunt Bee and her friend, Clara Edwards.

One of the lyrics goes: “My hometown is the greatest place I know, where the neighbors I find are gentle and kind, and the living easy and slow.”

That was truly an apt description of Seymour before the social unrest of the mid-1960s started changing the moral fabric of the town.

For me, during my 26 years in the military traveling around the world, my hometown never changed.

It’s not called “hometown” by the military; rather, it’s official name is “home of record.”

Mine never changed. It always remained my mom and dad’s address on North Cordie Street.

Even today, although I don’t currently reside in the Seymour area, my hometown is still Seymour.

That will never change.

Just like me, a Seymour ex pat like Patti Penny, who lives in Springfield, still considers Seymour as her hometown.

For those who don’t know, Patti is one of the most successful businesswomen in America.

She founded Penmac Staffing Services, which has 32 branches in eight states.

She’s won a truckload of awards for her business acumen and civic activities, winning the coveted 2017 Springfield Award from the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

This award recognizes excellence and dedication to improving the quality of life for people.

In Seymour, her contributions have been vital. When our new library was near the finish line, Patti’s $100,000 put it over the top. She’s given hundreds of thousands to the Seymour YMCA. Dan told me the community can thank her for the new doors and windows at the historic Owen Theatre; she wrote the check that got them installed. And who will ever forget when Patti was the organizer and financial sponsor that drew crowds of more than 700 to our annual Seymour High School Alumni Banquet?

That’s why when she visits her hometown and sees all the junk cars and trash in so many yards, she’ll take the time to stop and let Dan know to remind people they should take pride in their hometown.

I’m all for that.

Does anyone really think someone like Terry Penner needs to work?

What she’s doing now running around everywhere is not for the money — rather it’s for the love she has for her hometown. She wants to make sure the money coming to Seymour as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act gets to people in our hometown who need immediate financial help during the pandemic.

Terry was the perfect pick to run this program for the city of Seymour. She loves our community, and it’s evident to anyone who remotely pays attention.

Although he’ll probably cut this part, one of Seymour’s biggest boosters is Dan Wehmer, who adopted Seymour as his hometown 25 years ago.

I’m not saying that to “suck up” to my boss. He’s no longer my boss, but his love and support for our community are undeniably true. He’s a dear friend of mine and a friend of Seymour. For years, I had a front-row seat to watch him make phone calls and visits to heavy hitters across the state that had positive impact for our city.

The few examples of people who love their hometown that I’ve shown above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless others working behind the scenes because we all love our hometown.

Together, we’ll make it though this pandemic.

Because Seymour is simply that special.

Fred Spriggs is the former news editor of the Webster County Citizen, a position he held for nearly 15 years and where he won dozens of national and state awards for journalism excellence. He now lives in rural Stone County in retirement with his wife, Julie, who also is a Seymour native.

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